Although Puritans believed that if they searched the Scriptures long enough they would eventually agree, they early differed on the nature of the church polity advised in the Bible. The parish was the unit of the Puritan church; the parochial group of church members elected ministers. The main body of Puritans, the Presbyterians (see Presbyterianism), favored a central church government, whereas the separatists, Independents or Congregationalists (see Congregationalism), defined the church as any autonomous congregation of believers, emphasized the point that one could arrive at one's own conclusions in religion, and opposed a national, comprehensive church.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.